New Zealand union may investigate as concern expressed over failure to remove player
The opening game of Ireland’s tour of New Zealand has been overshadowed by a concussion row, after prop Jeremy Loughman returned to the field despite allegedly displaying concussion symptoms.
The Munster player went down with a head injury less than 90 seconds into his side’s 32-17 defeat to the Maori All Blacks at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton and was seen stumbling as he tried to get back to his feet.
Under World Rugby guidelines, a player who “displays obvious signs of concussion” (Criteria 1) is removed from the field of play immediately and a ‘Head Injury Assessment’ (HIA) is not required.
However, according to Ireland coach Andy Farrell, Loughman underwent and passed a HIA, which was conducted by the independent match doctor.
He returned to the field of play and was replaced by Cian Healy at half-time as “a precaution”.
Although they log and review every HIA incident in the game, World Rugby will not investigate the rights and wrongs of a particular incident. Instead, it is up to the host union - the New Zealand Rugby Union, in this case - to decide if the correct protocols were followed.
In particular, they must establish why Loughman fell outside Criteria 1 and was allowed to return to the pitch for the remainder of the first half.
Last week, the governing body beefed up its return to play protocols around head injuries in a bid to become “the most progressive sport in the world” in the field.
However, Progressive Rugby, an organisation whose members include Dr Barry O’Driscoll, former England international Kyran Bracken and ex-Wales back-row Alix Popham, branded the decision to allow Loughman to continue as unacceptable.
“It is deeply alarming, just days after World Rugby’s bold announcement of a ‘gold standard’ concussion protocol from 1st July, that a player clearly demonstrating signs of a traumatic brain injury has not been removed whilst in full glare of the media,” a statement read.
Meanwwhile, Ireland will have a big hit-out in Auckland this afternoon, after which Farrell will finalise his 23 to take on the All Blacks this weekend.
Cian Healy is set to miss out after suffering what looked like a serious leg injury, which will leave Ireland worryingly short in the prop department.
Cian Healy (pictured below) is set to miss out after suffering what looked like a serious leg injury, which will leave Ireland worryingly short in the prop department.
An almost entirely new XV from the side who were beaten yesterday by the Maori will be called upon – as, barring any late injuries, Farrell will look to his front-liners.
Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong are set to come into the front-row, with Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan, who may be carrying a knock, in line to feature in the second-row.
Peter O’Mahony could join Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris in the back-row, with Jack Conan another viable option.
Jamison Gibson-Park will renew his half-back partnership with Johnny Sexton, while Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are likely to do the same in midfield.
Hugo Keenan is set to be recalled in a back-three alongside James Lowe, with Keith Earls and Jordan Larmour battling it out for the right-wing spot.
Farrell is optimistic that his first-choice players can kick-start the tour after a tough opener.
“I think when you’re disappointed coming away from a loss, all you want is another opportunity.
“That’s what we’re here for, to test ourselves. We knew that playing on a Wednesday night was always going to put us under a bit of pressure. How we deal with adversity is going to be good for us as well, going forward.”
Possible team (v New Zealand) – H Keenan; K Earls G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), J Gibson-Park; A Porter, D Sheehan, T Furlong; T Beirne, J Ryan; P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, C Doris.